The trial of 17 staffers of Turkey’s main opposition newspaper, accused of resumed on Monday outside Istanbul.
Christophe Deloire, the secretary general of media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, called the case against the pro-secular Cumhuriyet newspaper “a mockery of justice.”
“(Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan succeeded in suppressing pluralism and free press in this country. There are only a few remaining free media and we have to defend them,” Deloire told The Associated Press outside Silivri prison, on the outskirts of Istanbul, where five Cumhuriyet employees are being held in pre-trial detention.
Among the jailed are editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu and columnist Kadri Gursel as well as investigative journalist Ahmet Sik.
Prosecutors have charged the paper’s employees with allegedly “sponsoring terror organisations,” including Kurdish militants, a far-left group and the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the government blames for a failed coup last year. Gulen denies any involvement.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said the defendants faced various charges with jail sentences ranging from seven to 43 years in prison.
The government insists that none of them are in prison for their journalistic work and that they are behind bars for various crimes, including terrorism.